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Holme shown within Cambridgeshire
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Holme is a village in Huntingdonshire (now part of Cambridgeshire), England, near Conington and Yaxley, and south of Peterborough. The parish contains the lowest point in Great Britain, 2.75 metres (9.0 ft) below sea level.
Holme is a small village and there are few services for its population of around 700. These include a pub called the Admiral Wells and a village hall. The village has a primary school and a parish church, dedicated to St Giles, which was rebuilt in 1862 by Edward Browning. There is a large village green and a nature reserve, and Holme is surrounded by fields, forests and fens. It may be the location of the Battle of the Holme in 902.
Before drainage, the fens contained many shallow lakes, of which Whittlesey Mere was one of the largest. The River Nene originally flowed through this mere, then south to Ugg Mere, before turning east towards the Ouse. By 1851, silting and peat expansion had reduced Whittlesey Mere to about 400 ha and only a metre deep. In that year the mere disappeared, when new drains carried waters to a pumping station and up into Bevill's Leam. The drainage turned both the mere and the Holme Fen into usable farmland, but subsidence followed.
In anticipation of the ground subsidence, the landowner William Wells had an oak pile driven through the peat and firmly embedded in the underlying clay; he then cut the top level with the ground in 1851 and used it to monitor the peat subsidence. A few years later, the oak post was replaced by a cast iron column (reputedly from The Crystal Palace building at The Great Exhibition of 1851), that was similarly founded on timber piles driven into the stable clay, with its top at the same level as the original post. This is the Holme Post that survives today. As it was progressively exposed it became unstable, and steel guys were added in 1957, when a second iron post was also installed 6 m to the northeast. The post now rises 4 m above the ground, and provides an impressive record of the ground subsidence; both posts are standing today.
The site is a 266-hectare (660-acre) national nature reserve (NNR) situated at the westernmost end of the East Anglian fens at the south-western edge of the former Whittlesey Mere. The Fen occupies a crescent-shaped site approximately 2.5 km long by 1.5 km wide and has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Geological Conservation Review Site (GCR). It is home to a variety of birds, including the Eurasian siskin, Nightingale and Lesser redpoll, and around 450 species of fungi.
Holme Fen is the largest Silver birch woodland in lowland Britain. It contains approximately 5 hectares of rare acid grassland and heath and a hectare of remnant raised bog, an echo of the habitat that would have dominated the area centuries ago. This is the most south-easterly bog of its type in Britain.
Holme approximately marks the south-western limit of Stage 2 of the Great Fen Project. The reserve is open to the public throughout the year.
The Victorian Holmewood Hall on Church Street is now a conference and training centre. The current structure was built around 1873 by Scottish architect Willam Young for MP William Wells, the grandson of Admiral Thomas Wells.
During World War II, the Hall was used by U.S. Office of Strategic Services for packing airborne containers to be parachuted into occupied Europe. The OSS called this effort to supply anti-Nazi resistance groups Operation Carpetbagger.
The Floating Church
The village sign shows a man leading a horse towing the Floating Church of Holme that was dedicated to St Withburga in April 1897. It was the idea of the rector of Holme, Rev. George Broke that a church on a boat could get to areas of the fens which were difficult to reach to allow those who lived there to worship. The boat was 30 feet long and about 10 feet wide, it boasted an altar, font, a lectern which doubled as a pulpit and a harmonium. Between 1897 and 1904, 74 baptisms took place on board.
- Keynes, Simon (1999). "England, c.900-1016". In Reuter, Timothy. The New Cambridge Medieval History 3. Cambridge University Press. p. 461 n. 7. ISBN 0 521 36447 7.
- "Holme Fen NNR". Natural England.
- "UK's lowest spot is getting lower". BBC. 2002-11-29. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
- "Operation Carpetbagger". Night Flights Over Occupied Europe. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- Floating Church Fenland Citizen 31 March 2010
Media related to Holme, Cambridgeshire at Wikimedia Commons